By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published December 2021
In owner may feel it as unfair to be told to remove the used refrigerator sitting in her yard. She calls the manager and accuses her of discrimination, and she says she is going to file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
One board member thinks the president is not giving him the same information he is giving the other board members. He tells his neighbors the president is hiding information from everyone. Now those neighbors are stirring up other neighbors who have other criticisms of the board president.
The manager is accused by a group of owners of stealing money from the association. They think this is true because the manager has bought a new car. This group is now making dozens of record requests looking for the “missing” money.
The owners in the far back side of the community feel they are being left out, and their needs are not being met by the board members who live in the front. They start a petition to recall the whole board of directors.
The condominium owner who is an attorney thinks she is being ignored and mistreated because there is a delay in her roof repair. She sends a letter threatening to sue the board for negligence; she makes threatening telephone calls to the roofing company. She does not accept any explanation of the delay that roofers are out sick, and the summer rains have compounded the scheduling.
While each of these instances could be true, they could equally not be true. How does one determine what is true? What is needed to make that determination? It would seem a broader perspective is needed.
A sensible person will add logic and facts to enhance their perspective. With only thoughts and feelings, we might set ourselves up for unrealistic expectations such as “everything has to be the way I want it to be.”
Logic says, “All my expectations will not be met, so I should listen, learn, communicate without drama, and find a solution. I need the facts so I can process my decision and determine my next course of action.”
Where and how then do you get the facts to add to logic? By listening, and there is a skill to listening which more people apparently need to develop! Here are some tips for listening to increase your logic and facts.
This one is hard. If the owners or board members in the scenarios above had taken time to make a telephone call and ask for clarification, they might have learned some things about living in a community association. They may have been reminded there are restrictions on the use of their properties or that owners do have to pay assessments to support the operations of the association.
And listening works both ways. The person receiving the telephone call needs to listen empathetically, without interrupting. Both parties need to listen without accusing. Listening slowly includes not interrupting the other person while they are speaking. Ask for clarification. Try to take time to listen. Many mistakes and misunderstandings could be avoided if the other person had been fully heard.
If the conversation becomes nasty, abusive, or threatening, slowly tell the other person that you will end the telephone call if he or she continues with the menacing tone. If he doesn’t stop, tell him again, and then end the call.
Be sure to listen with openness. In other words, do not hinder your listening by prejudging the other person’s motives. The following are some attitudes that hinder listening:
If you can learn this skill, this will make you the type of person whom people want to talk to. To listen for the next question, you really have to pay attention. The next question is usually a series of who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Ask one more question; don’t assume all has been said.
The next question comes from some word that was used or a reference that was made in that conversation. Or, it could be a follow-up question from something you remember from a previous conversation.
In the first scenario, the woman with the refrigerator violation believes you are discriminating against her. You listen, and when there is a pause, you ask her, how is it discrimination? She says it is because of her race. You remind her that you have never met face to face. She says that all the neighbors know her race and don’t like her. You remind her you are the new manager and know very little of the community gossip since you are not on site. Your job is to drive through the community, take pictures of the violations, and send a courtesy reminder to the owner with a clip of the appropriate rule. You go on to say that on your drive through, you noticed there were children playing in the driveway. They were having so much fun, and you ask, “Are they your children or grandchildren?” Yes, they are her grandchildren. They moved to Florida from the islands and were having a hard time adjusting to life in a community that did not allow junk and trash in their yards. You comment that it must be difficult living in such a different culture. She agreed. You offer to help her by answering any other “cultural” questions she might have as she and the children get adjusted. She says thanks, apologizes for the threat to notify the EEOC, and then admits she doesn’t really know what the EEOC is. She adds that she will remove the refrigerator. Now you are both in a better place than at the beginning.
Decisions are going to be flawed without a broader perspective. A sensible person has learned to balance what he thinks and feels by seeking facts. Doing so will result in more logical decisions, fewer misunderstandings, and less drama.
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA
Florida CAM Schools
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call (352) 326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.